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|Index||15 reviews in total|
Who would think a two-hour film (and subtitled for non-Japanese
speaking viewers) about tax collectors could be interesting? This was,
although nothing extraordinary.....just pretty entertaining with an
interesting lead character and strange soundtrack.
I found Nobuko Miyamoro fascinating as the tax collector with all the freckles and the will to get the job done, no matter what it takes. It was interesting to discover how much the Japanese were taxed (at least when this movie was made) and what lengths they will go to cheat on their taxes!
The hot-tempered gangster had some funny lines, some naked breasts were seen here several times to keep things spiced up for the male audience. Generally, this was fun to watch. The constant jazz-type beat on the main song was cool for quite a while but got tiresome toward the end.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm fairly certain I saw this film in its original theatrical release
in the '80s(memory is dim,) and recently found it on DVD with
considerable difficulty. The transfer to DVD is rather basic - no
letterbox, a bit dark and very little in the way of special features -
but despite disgust at the fact that the film hasn't been digitally
remastered and given more than a bargain-basement DVD presentation, I
love the film itself every bit as much as I did the first time I saw
Philosophically, i.e. in terms of ethical theme, "A Taxing Woman" is one of those stories in which identifying a hero is difficult - no clear black and white, only greys. Ryoko (Miyamoto Nobuko) and Gondo (Yamazaki Tsutomu) are of course the dueling protagonists, but each is anti-heroic, something I ordinarily can't stand: Gondo is the operator of a chain of Japan's ubiquitous "Love Hotels," where lovers go to find short-term lodgings for their trysts, who's got a complex system in place to evade Japan's horrific taxation; Ryoko is a tax auditor, later promoted to investigator, who, though admirable in her relentless dedication and competence, is party to some of the most horrendous legal assaults on businesspeople imaginable. The film's moral doesn't crystallize until the final scene - Gondo states a defense of his right to pursue his own happiness via an oblique reference to kids happily playing in a park below, then makes a dramatic and symbolic statement about the root meaning of outrageous taxation by slicing his finger and revealing to Ryoko his long-sought hidden bank account - via an account number scrawled in his very blood. After he walks away the camera lingers on the back of Ryoko's head, signifying her sudden crisis of conscience over her chosen profession.
In terms of style alone "A Taxing Woman" is an absolute masterpiece. The mood throughout is of a delightful farce in the mold of one of Blake Edwards' "Pink Panther" films, albeit far more subtle, obviously. The music, contrary to some claims here, is truly unique, memorable and nothing short of outstanding, much like Mancini's - fleshing out the farcical cat-and-mouse mood perfectly via two brief, repeating oboe (clarinet?) melodies laid over a bouncy 5/4 time signature that reappear at key points throughout the story.
The outrageous lengths to which the tax auditors and inspectors go to ferret out tax evaders is exaggerated (one would hope - I've never lived in Japan,) for great comedic effect. This isn't a rolling-in-the-aisles slapstick comedy and isn't intended as one, but the bureaucrats' combination of ruthlessness and obsessive yet oddly endearing personal dedication to their task, balanced by the businesspeople's often intricate and similarly humorous schemes to hang onto their property in the onslaught, is the exaggerated core conflict that pulls you into the plot and makes the film irresistibly charming.
The fairly simple plot setup in "A Taxing Woman" derives its incredible depth by the fact that it's almost entirely character-driven - Miyamoto and Yamazaki are such vivid personalities and the opposing chemistry between them so potent that you will find yourself thinking about them for weeks after the fact, as though they were your close personal friends. That is my psychological litmus test for a great film: "Do the characters stay with me long after I've seen it?" "A Taxing Woman" succeeds in spades.
A dose of gritty realism - though with a patina of humor as well - is added to the mix in the character of the violent Yakuza boss Ninagawa, played by Ashida Shinsuke. That element is underscored in the real world by the fact that director Itami was attacked on the street and had his face slashed by five Yakuza in 1992 after the release of his film "Minbo no Onna," a.k.a. "Minbo - or the Gentle Art of Japanese Extortion." He was subsequently killed when he "fell" from a hotel balcony, an apparent but suspicious suicide that was treated by the police as a possible homicide. The world lost a great artist, and "A Taxing Woman" remains a timeless masterpiece. We can only hope that whoever owns the rights to it will finally give it the digital translation and wide release it deserves.
This film will probably take many of the viewers by surprise.
Apparently the tax system and the art of cheating on your taxes in
Japan is something most Westerners might be surprised to see. Sure,
MOST cultures have some people who try to avoid taxes--this is pretty
much a given. But the lengths to which they go in Japan and the lengths
the tax investigators go to catch them is truly amazing and makes this
film so unusual.
The tax cheat in the film, Mr. Gondo, is a complex and unusual man. In some ways, he's a slimy man with little to like--owning a string of "love motels" (i.e., hotels where prostitutes go with their clients or couples commit adultery) and mistreating his mistresses pretty badly. But, oddly, through the course of the film, the viewer and the tax lady come to like him or at least recognize he isn't all bad. This is important because otherwise, the film would have been far less interesting. Also, the many, many, many bizarre ways of hiding cash and bank accounts was truly bizarre--with hidden rooms and account information hidden practically EVERYWHERE! The lady tax investigator, Ryoko Itakura, is amazing as well--sort of like a superhero with amazing deductive powers. She is both tenacious and brilliant but also obsessed to the point where she doesn't appear to have much purpose in life but her job. Again, this made for a fascinating woman, as later you saw bits and pieces of her life that led you to believe she is a real person with real likes and dislikes--and even a liking for Gondo.
All in all, this is one of the more unusual films I have seen--with a plot that is so unusual and a style that make it a standout film.
She's rather memorable, this taxing woman. She has a face like a China
doll all grown up with freckles around her eyes and a mat of thick dark
hair on her head as though cut with the aid of a vegetable bowl. She is
Nobuko Miyamoto, wife of the late and lamented director Juzo Itami, and
a comedic star worthy of 'Saturday Night Live' in its better days. She
plays Ryoke Hakura, tireless tax inspector hot on the trail of shady
tax dodger Hideki Gondo, played with rakish self-indulgence by Tsutomi
Yamazaki. Itami blends situation comedy with some soap opera angst
(Japanese and American) to which he adds some ersatz action/adventure
shtick (the chase scene near the end with Hakura legging it after
Gondo's teenage son, comes to mind) seasoned with a touch of the
traditional theater and a little zesty porn, well mixed.
The result is interesting and a little jarring.
I was most affected by the atmosphere of this strange and original comedy. I found myself looking at the backdrops and the sets and into the faces of all those very neat Japanese bureaucrats as I followed Ryoko Hakura's tireless pursuit of the missing yen. All that paper work and all those numbers! Interesting were the attitudes and presumptions of the characters in terms of sexuality and social status. We can see that in the modern Japan a woman must navigate her way carefully through the sea of men, while a man must achieve financial success to command respect. And yet there lingers still the flavor and the swagger of the samurai as seen in the scene where Gondo cuts his finger to write a bank account number in blood.
Aside from getting a little soapy at the end, this is fine flick, sly and amusing.
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
The plot of A Taxing Woman is interesting/enthralling, regardless of
the production date or language of the film. Watching tax evasion cases
unfold is surprisingly interesting, presented in a manner that shows
the more human side of government organizations. (OK, if not the 'human
side', at least you get to see what it's like on the inside.) From a
cultural perspective, a 1980s Tokyo is also interesting, with shots of
the cityscape, pachinko parlors, love hotels, etc.
One last comment: There is nudity in this film, but It adds to the story of the film, justifying why some of the characters do what they do.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
=======POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD======
When can tax inspectors make you laugh? In "A Taxing Woman," it is possible. Ryoko is a divorced mother who also works for the Japanese Revenue Service. She, with the freckles and page-boy hair cut, is a workaholic, steadfast and incorruptible in her duties (You can sort of understand why many people evade their taxes while watching this film.). Her one stumbling block is Hideki Gondo, an expert on tax evading. A business man that runs hotels, he uses scams and works with underworld figures, bankers and political figures to keep his money. He's also a fool for love (he has 2 mistresses and a common law wife), and a devoted father. When the 2 meet, it becomes a comedic battle. There's sexual tension between them but the question is: will he be able to keep his money hidden from her? Will she be able to get his money from him? It's a very funny movie, showing the depths that people will sink to hold onto taxable income (one tax evader tried to hide the signature seals in lipstick tubes), and the depths that the tax inspectors will go to catch their man/woman (inspectors digging into HUGE bags of trash to find documents). The late Juzo Itami did an incredible job with this film, working with his usual group of actors, including his wife, Nobuko Miyamoto as Ryoko. Don't worry about the subtitles, because the action on the screen are clear enough to understand.
This film from director Juzo Itami, who also directed the excellent "The Funeral" is about Ryoko Itakura, a cute freckle faced bowl haircut style tax investigator. She tries innovative ways to separate people from their hidden earnings, which is, after all, her job. Nobuko Miyamoto, who plays Ryoko, is great, always looking like the only important thing is the job. When she gets promoted to Tax Inspector her job with her new colleagues is to investigate developer Hideko Gondo, played extremely well by Tsutomu Yamazaki, to find out how he is cheating on his taxes. Gondo is, of course, shrewd about hiding his money, so you're left to wonder whether they will succeed. This is essentially a comedy, with a little drama and a bit of erotica (not involving Ms. Miyamoto's character), and it does have some heart. It falls short of "The Funeral" in that the character development, aside from Ryoko and Gondo, is a little weaker. But, for its subject, it is never boring and it is entertaining. I'm sure these people in Japan are as zealous as they seem in this film. Enjoy, its well worth your time.
Besides the great performances by the two leads, portraying antagonists with similar world-views while on different sides of the law, I especially liked the permeating atmosphere of Japan that came through with the cinematography, the soundtrack, and the scene set-ups. The final scene culminated the film's strong reminder of the almost unpleasant yet intense fascination I often felt in the urban environments of Japan in the late 80's and early 90's. "That," I thought of the movie when it was over, "after setting aside all the comic exaggeration, is the real Japan." Like the movie "Shall We Dance?", it clearly showed a true aspect of Japan.
I watched this movie with a friend from Japan who had a very high opinion it. I must say it was helpful to have her watching the movie with us (in our college dorm), however, because she explained a number of things about Japanese tax code and evasion as well as the Japanese mafia that made the plot (and politics) of the story much easier to follow. Aside from potential confusion in that area, I must say that I enjoyed the movie. Yes, there is sex, suspense, and the mafia, but don't expect it to flow like a mindless crime thriller (read: it isn't mindless, and it isn't non-stop action). It is about a tax woman, after all--the only woman amongst her coworkers. The characters are interesting and the story keeps you thinking. A smart movie with a few things to say along the way. Overall, I thought it was a good, but not great, movie. However, if you like this genre in general, you might enjoy it more than I did.
Japanese satirist Juzo Itami tackles yet another popular obsession in this often bitter comedy sure to strike a chord with any long-suffering taxpayer. The film lacks the playful free-form structure of his earlier 'Tampopo', but compensates with more of the same inflated, deadpan humor, diluted here by a cruel (but not incompatible) streak of anger no doubt reflecting the director's own relationship with the Japanese IRS. Itami's heroine is a plucky, incorruptible Internal Revenue agent (played by his own off-screen wife) involved in a high-tech, fast-paced game of cat-and-mouse with a ruthless, lecherous businessman trying to protect his illicit income by any means possible. Her single-minded pursuit of the Almighty Yen in the service of her government is no less compulsive than the creative tax-dodges of her money-hungry target, and the exaggerated methods of detection and evasion give the film an irresistible comic energy. The tempo doesn't really take off until the second hour, when the entire team of tax agents joins the chase, and their obsessive devotion to duty carries the film beyond the level of absurdity, transforming a colorless world of glorified accountants into an exciting, romantic adventure and showing just how shark-like the lure of money can be, on both sides of the law.
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